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|| News Item: Posted 2007-09-24

Leading Off: Thanks for the Memories
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Robert Hanashiro, right, and Karch Kiraly.
The King Of the Beach is hanging up his pink cap. The aches and pains of countless digs, face-first dives and sprints across the sand have taken their toll on his 47-year-old body.

Karch Kiraly is retiring from competitive volleyball.

After three NCAA Championships playing the indoor game for UCLA, three Olympic gold medals (two indoor, one on the beach) and a staggering 148 wins on the pro beach volleyball circuit, Karch decided to turn his attention to other ventures at the conclusion of the AVP Tour this year.

His accomplishments both on the sand and indoor courts certainly didn't attract the media attention of another record-breaking athlete still competing in his mid-40s, Barry Bonds.

For all of the thrills and chills that Bonds provided baseball fans, Karch did the same for me on the volleyball court. But professional beach volleyball and Karch don't attract the media glare and critical scrutiny like Bonds and baseball do. Which is probably a good thing in a way.

One of the very first events I covered for USA TODAY was the US Men's Olympic Volleyball Team at the '88 Olympics in Seoul Korea. I'd never been out of California (family trips to Reno and Lake Tahoe don't count) let alone out of the country. But here I was in Seoul covering the ultimate sports event in the world, the Summer Olympic Games.

My fondest memories of the '88 Olympics aren't the big showdown between Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson in the 100 meters. Or the covering the controversial Roy Jones loss to South Korean Park Si-Hun in the light middleweight gold medal bout.

No, my fondest memories are of America's thrilling win over Brazil in the men's volleyball semis and the emotionally charged win against the Soviet Union for the gold.

Bob Ctvrtlik, Jeff Stork, Craig Buck, Eric Sato, Scott Fortune and Karch…

After moving to Southern California in late '89 I started covering professional beach volleyball during the summer lull to get my sports-action fix between the basketball and football seasons.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

"The King of the Beach" Karch Kiraly walks along the water with his wife Janna.
And action I got! Diving bodies. Seventy-five mph spikes. Flying sand. Surf music. The beach. The ocean. The coolest rendition of "The Wave". And Karch with his now famous pink cap.

From Santa Barbara to San Diego over the summer months I tried to shoot as much beach volleyball as I could fit in and there was always one constant …. Karch.

Karch's final season on the beach ended with another injury, but also several more thrills, with five top 5 finishes this season.

As he heads off into the sunset to spend more time with his wife Janna and two sons I say: Thanks for the memories!

* * *

And speaking of memories … there are plenty for me as USA TODAY celebrates its 25th anniversary.

I've been with "The Nation's Newspaper" for about 18 years. A lot has happened since "Big Al" … Al Neuharth … launched what his critics called at the time a lamebrain idea that had no chance of succeeding.

As a wide-eyed rube from the Central Valley of California, I went from the 22,000 circulation Visalia Times-Delta to 2.2 million USA TODAY in 1989. I'd been at the T-D for 10 years and job offers had come and gone and I'd always end up staying.

I was comfortable. I enjoyed being what my dad called "the big fish in the small pond". I was beginning to think that Visalia was the end of the line and I'd settle in … even at age 34.

But USA TODAY swept me off my feet and dropped me in The Big City.

As I look back on "MacPaper" at 25 ---I always hated that term and thank God we've outgrown it! --- there has been a lot that I have to be thankful for and lots of people I should thank.

If you're reading this, it means you're either a subscriber to the Sports Shooter Newsletter or on the website. Listen carefully: There would be NO SPORTS SHOOTER if it were not for USA TODAY.

Photo by USA TODAY

Photo by USA TODAY

USA TODAY crew at the 2005 Academy Awards: Life section photo editor Jym Wilson, ("JY"), Jack Gruber, Robert Hanashiro and Dan MacMedan.
I would not have met and become good friends with Brad Mangin. Grover Sanschagrin and Jason Burfield would just be names of a couple of successful "Internet Guys" to me, instead of my partners in the coolest photography site on the Internet.

So as USA TODAY celebrates its 25 years of publication, everyone that has been touched by Sports Shooter … whether a newsletter story, viewed a video on the website, attended one of the educational programs, entered into our contests, whatever … we all owe a debt of gratitude to USA TODAY.

I spend a lot of my "off time" working on all things Sports Shooter. And my bosses at the paper … past and present … have been supportive, encouraging, helpful and very understanding.

USA TODAY has taken me to 9 Olympic Games, countless Super Bowls, World Series games, NCAA Basketball Tournament games, floods, riots, tornadoes and a couple of war zones (you take the good with the bad obviously).

But with that blur of travel and assignments, the most important thing to me is the people. Paul Whyte, Richard Curtis and Frank Folwell took a chance on a punk kid from Fresno. I have worked with some of the greatest people anyone could ask for: Bob Deutsch, Jack Gruber, Darr Beiser, Eileen Blass, Tim Dillion and Dan MacMedan. And some very cool photo editors past and present like Porter Binks, Alex Korab, Matt Mendelsohn, John Glenn, Kathleen Hennessey … Coop, Coach, Sean Dougherty, Mick Cochran, Julia Schmalz, JY, Kevin Eans, Mark Miller, Mike T. and literally countless others.

I didn't have much contact with "Big Al". But he was literally bigger than life. My last thanks are to "Big Al" … thanks for USA TODAY. And thanks for all of the memories. I hope I have another 25 years left in me for the 50th anniversary!

* * *

We're just a couple of months away from the COOLEST photography event of the fall…the Sports Shooter Multimedia Boot Camp.

If you want to experience an intensive, hands on multimedia training session, network with a group of fellow photographers and students and have a fun time, you will want to try to snag one of the last spots in the Boot Camp.

The workshop is November 2 - 4, 2007 in Orange County, CA.

For more details and to download an application form, check the links below to previous stories archived on

The following companies are helping put on the Sports Shooter Academy Boot Camp:
• Apple
• Canon, USA
• Think Tank Photo
• Samy's Camera

Apple will be providing MacBook Pro laptops for workshop participants to use during the daylong multimedia training session.

Canon will be on hand to loan out their latest digital SLR cameras and lenses ---from wide angle to 600mm--- for participants to use during Saturday's shoot off.

Prizes will be awarded for the best photograph made during Saturday's sports shoot off and the best multimedia project made from Saturday will also receive a prize.

Photo by USA TODAY

Photo by USA TODAY

Robert Hanashiro (left) and Bob Deutsch in Kosovo in 2001.
This will be a very cool, fun weekend for both the working professional and student.

* * *

Sports Shooter #104 features a travel story from hell by my USA TODAY colleague Eileen Blass.

We have our annual Intern Diaries series, with reports from Marcus Yam, Sam Adams, Zach Honig and Pouya Dianat. Former White House photographer Paul Morse is now a "civilian" and writes about his experiences covering history the past 7 years.

We have our periodic In The Bag column, this issue written by So Cal freelancer Matt Brown. Getty's Donald Miralle writes our regular Photographer's Toy Box a review on the latest underwater housing from AquaTech.

My current reading list this month includes: "The Last Best League: One Summer, One Season, One Dream" by Jim Collins; "Counter Intelligence: Where To Eat In The Real Los Angeles" by Jonathan Gold; "The Essential X-Men vol. 1" from Marvel Comic and "Echo Park" by Michael Connelly.

iTunes has queued up: "Happenstance" by Rachael Yamagata; "The Story" by Brandi Carlile and 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.


As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, Reed Hoffmann, Paul Myers, Nick Layman and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Eileen Blass, Paul Morse, Marcus Yam, Sam Adams, Pouya Dianat, Zach Honig, Donald Miralle and Matt Brown.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

The Sports Shooter Archives as well as tons of cool resources and information can be accessed through the Internet at

Use of the content of the Sports Shooter Newsletter is prohibited without the expressed written permission of The Big Kahuna and the author of the article.

Opinions, rants, raves, insults and praise whether intend or not, are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sports Shooter and public sensibilities.

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